ISLAMABAD: Although a number of government and semi-government employees have been able to limit themselves to their homes without facing financial constraints, employees of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) have circulated video messages among the media detailing the difficulties they have faced because they have not been paid for months.

The PMDC was dissolved by a presidential ordinance on Oct 19, 2019, which also paved the way for the establishment of the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC). On Oct 20, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) sealed the PMDC building and announced that the services of its 220 employees were terminated and only class four employees would be retained. The PMC was later established and the building made functional again.

On Feb 11, the Islamabad High Court declared the aforementioned ordinance “null and void”, restoring the PMDC and the services of its employees. But instead of implementing the court’s decision, the NHS ministry sealed the building again and stopped employees from entering. The government also appealed the IHC decision before a division bench.

PMDC employees have now circulated video messages among the media in order to record their protest and speak out about the situation they are facing. They said they have been fighting for jobs that the government took away from them for the last five months.

Rana Salamat Ali, who worked as a peon for 10 years and is disabled, said: “We are all in a very bad state, as we have been given deducted basic salaries that are enough for just one or two months due to the high inflation in the country.”

Say financial hardships getting unbearable with the passage of time

Mr Ali said he had to start selling fruits and vegetables to run his house and look after his three children and elderly mother.

“But now due to Covid-19, I am not even able to go out and earn money, as I am the sole breadwinner of the house and I have asthma,” he said, adding: “My family and I are starving; it would be better to die of Covid-19 than see children die from hunger.”

He asked the prime minister and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on NHS Dr Zafar Mirza why the government was resisting reinstating employees if the court has revived the PMDC.

Zubair Bhutto, an assistant who worked at the PMDC for 15 years, said he didn’t receive any salary because he took a loan last year that was deducted from his pay.

He said he has parents, a widowed sister and two children to feed. Mr Bhutto asked why the prime minister was not taking notice of the situation if he was concerned about labourers and daily-wage employees. He also appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan to help PMDC employees in this matter.

“Our families are suffering and we have no hope from the Ministry of NHS as despite the landmark decision of the honourable court the government is using delaying tactics to open the PMDC,” he said.

In a video, PMDC Registrar retired Brig Hafizuddin Siddiqui said that nearly 250 PMDC employees - as class four staff have also lost their jobs - and their families are suffering. He said one employee lost a child a few weeks ago because he did not have the resources to seek treatment.

He said that the employees were helpless in the face of their poor financial condition.

“It is alas very painful to see 250 families crying and suffering. What does Covid-19 have to do with them when they are already dying of hunger,” he asked,

Mr Siddiqui said the PMDC was a very prestigious organisation and the only body to regulate the medical and dental fraternity, but has now been ruined.

“At the moment, 15,000 new pass out doctors could have been inducted in house jobs but are sitting at home due to the closure of the PMDC. Around 50,000 doctors are not able to renew their registrations and these doctors could have been very helpful in this situation. It is quite unfair at the end of the government to avoid implementing the decision of the IHC to reinstate the PMDC,” he said.

The NHS ministry’s media coordinator Sajid Shah told Dawn that the ministry is waiting for the division bench’s decision.

“Moreover, our focus is currently towards Covid-19 as that is the most important and sensitive issue,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2020